Phil G. Joseph, creator of Rep Matters.
“I want Black people to feel invited into this space. You can’t build initiatives within the venture capital (VC) community if people think that they can’t go into that, or aren’t understanding of the opportunities in tech and VC.”
Rep Matters, created by Phil G. Joseph, with support from Real Ventures, is an initiative centered around looking at the experience of Black founders in the Canadian startup landscape.
Kicking off with a seven-part video series of interviews with some of Canada’s top Black leaders, Joseph hopes that Rep Matters can start discussions and increase awareness around the diversity—rather the lack thereof—in VC.
The series came together when Joseph became interested in the growth of the VC space in Canada, and quickly realized that he couldn’t find many people who looked like him in the industry.
When Joseph met John Stokes, a Partner at Real Ventures, the two decided to explore the topic deeper.
“We went around and looked for people who are already part of the ecosystem, who are Black and can speak to that experience, but who are first and foremost leaders of what they do,” said Joseph. “It was really about trying to get their view of what was going on and looking at potential solutions.”
Interviewees include Black entrepreneurs and investors, including Janelle Hinds, Founder and Executive Director of Helping Hands, Brent David Ho-Young, Founder and CEO of Dream Payments, and Andre Charoo, Founder of Maple VC.
Throughout the conversations, Joseph talks with each guest about his or her experience as a Black person in the VC or tech sphere, including past discriminations, hurdles they had to overcome, and how they are currently paving the way for change.
For Joseph, a highlight from the conversations was getting to see how different everyone’s journey was.
“We spoke a lot about identity and about how it relates to the entrepreneurial journey or journeys as an investor,” said Joseph. “It was interesting to see, that though we’re all Black people and society often lumps us into one, we’re also very different. We’re not a monolith.”
A standout moment for Joseph came from his conversation with Hinds, where she described how she, as a Black woman, noticed that Black men were often left out of the conversation.
She noticed she would often get invited to join gender-based diversity initiatives, but that Black men weren’t being given the same kind of opportunities, so long as the conversation focused on gender diversity and not racial diversity.
That’s not to say that diversity and inclusion efforts should exclusively focus on one or the other. Rather, it highlights the need for awareness of all intersections. For Rep Matters, its focus is on amplifying the stories of success in the Black community.
“You see two Black people talking about tech and venture capital, which you don’t see in Canada almost ever,” said Joseph.
It’s so rare that Joseph said that in his research for Rep Matters, he couldn’t even find data on racial statistics within the industry in Canada. He recognizes that there may be legal reasons for not disclosing the information, but believes it’s vital to address the problem, “How are you going to fix a problem that you haven’t even quantified?”
There are stats for our southern neighbours, and the number emphasizes why initiatives like Rep Matters are important. According to Harvard Business Review, only one percent (approximately) of all VC funding goes towards Black founders in the United States.
Overall, Joseph hopes that people will watch the interview series and use it as a stepping stone to conversations about the possibilities for Black people in the tech and VC space. He also hopes that the interview series is just the beginning for Rep Matters.
“Then there will be people in the space, thinking and caring about the same thing, and who can then help take action towards increasing Black participation in tech and venture capital,” said Joseph. “The end goal ultimately is to create generational wealth in the Black community.”